College textbook memories: 1986 “Introduction to Poetry” text

I’m a packrat by nature. You should therefore not be surprised to learn that although I graduated from college in 1990, I still have many of my college textbooks. 

I purchased the above text in 1986 for an English class (obviously).

The above textbook cost $25 when I bought it. If that sounds cheap to you, I’ll point out that this would be $65.58 in 2022 dollars. So perhaps college textbooks have always been overpriced. Also, minimum wage was $3.35 per hour in 1986, and $4 to $5 was considered a “typical” hourly wage for a student-level job.

I haven’t written or read much poetry since I took that class. 

Why? While I’m more than willing to tilt at windmills, even I have my limits. The market for poetry in the English-speaking has never been great…at least in modern times. The editor of the above text, X.J. Alexander, points this out in an essay near the end of the book. He describes a “poetry glut”. And keep in mind: the above textbook was published a decade before the Internet or Windows 95, back when people who wanted to write had to actually use typewriters or pens. Now we can write entire books on our cellphones.

Like most overly introspective teenagers through the ages, I wrote my share of bad poetry between the ages of 15 and 17, or 1983 and 1985. Teenage crushes, feelings of being misunderstood, and generalized adolescent angst all tend to produce bad poetry, like May weather produces dandelions.

No—you will never see any of those old poems of mine here. All of those old pages disappeared in the chaos of a move in 1988. This was no great loss, neither to me, nor to the American literary canon. 

Another nice thing about the pre-Internet era: the potentially embarrassing things we wrote, said, or did tended to disappear with the passage of time. As they should.

Springtime in Ohio, grass mowing, and writing updates

This is what springtime typically looks like in Southern Ohio: coolish and overcast, with rain, or the threat of rain.

Today I plan to finish editing the last few chapters of Book 5 (the final book) of The Cairo Deception series. Book 5 is available for preorder now, and you should see it on Amazon in early May.

I also hope to mow both my lawn and my dad’s lawn. Because the grass is growing like gangbusters here, even though the weather is still less than summerlike. In April in this part of the country, a suburban lawn has to be cut every five to six days.

It takes me about three hours to cut and trim both lawns. I don’t mind, though. As I’ve noted before, I usually listen to audiobooks while I mow.

Today I’ll be listening to Purple Cane Road, a crime novel by James Lee Burke, and Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan.

The latter title, of course, is a nonfiction book about postwar Japan. I have long had an interest in Japan, its language, and its history.

Also, this is partly research. I’m planning a historical series set in postwar Japan, beginning in the year 1945. (I’ll provide more information about that in the future.)

Anyway, I hope you have a happy and productive day, dear reader, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing. 

Horror, the American Revolution, and the 1970s

‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ is a tale with history, supernatural horror, and a coming-of-age story. Also, a look at some of the issues of the 1970s.

The story is set in the Bicentennial summer of 1976, when the Headless Horseman (of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’) returns from the depths of Hell to terrorize modern-day America!

View ‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ on Amazon

TikTok for old folks (like yours truly)

One of the enduring characteristics of my life is that I always figure things out late. I am therefore making a somewhat belated foray into TikTok.

Most of the “Booktok” crowd, at present, is young, female, and easy on the eyes. This facilitates content like dance videos. I’m a 53-year-old man. I know quite well that the Internet does not want to see me dance. Nor do I plan to lip-sync to any Taylor Swift songs. (Is Taylor Swift still a thing? I don’t know…)

My TikTok videos will mostly focus on my books and my stories. I’ll be starting out with simple promo videos (see below), but I plan to expand into full-fledged storytelling.  Given the video length constraints on TikTok, that may be a challenge. But I’m working on it.

As older people get into TikTok, they will need to develop age-appropriate ways of interacting with the medium. What works for a teen or early 20-something on social media is not going to work for a 40- or 50-something. This means that older folks, rather than blindly copying the young, will need to blaze new trails.

But the same thing happened with YouTube more than a decade ago. In the first few years of YouTube, that venue was dominated by Millennials…who were then quite young, but are well into early middle age at the time of this writing.

Now it is no big deal to be 35, 45, or 55 and on YouTube. And so it will be with TikTok, too.

@edward_trimnell_author

https://www.edwardtrimnellbooks.com/eleven-miles-of-night-online-serial/ #horror #ghoststory #horrornovel #supernatural ELEVEN MILES OF NIGHT

♬ original sound – Edward Trimnell

Memories of Waldenbooks

Before there was Amazon, before there was Borders or Barnes & Noble, there was Waldenbooks.  The all-American mall bookstore. 

There was one of these in both of the malls near my house. As I’ve noted before, I’m a child of the 1970s and 1980s, and I grew up in the Golden Age of the American Mall.

I bought a lot of books at Waldenbooks in those days. (I was a lucky kid, and my mom bought me books when I was too young to buy them myself.) 

In those days, my favorite authors were John Jakes, James Clavell, and Stephen King. I also liked the nonfiction of Carl Sagan. (That was the heyday of Cosmos, too.)

The selection in the most well-stocked Waldenbooks was but a fraction of what is available on Amazon. And there were few discounts; most titles sold at full price. Because there was no online competition.

I’m not claiming that it was more economically efficient, or even better for reading. But those mall bookstores…they became sources of great memories for those of us who came of age at a certain time in the American suburbs.

State of the lawn: late April 2022

I despise the very concept of the suburban lawn. Perfectly manicured, astroturf-green lawns are wasteful. They harm the environment, too. If it were up to me, I would let my lawn be overrun with dandelions and wildflowers. Good for the bees! I might also plant a vegetable garden.

But I live in a neighborhood with an HOA that is only slightly more tolerant than the former East German Stasi. I therefore go to considerable lengths each year to make sure my lawn is green, and relatively weed-free.

I used to use TruGreen…until the company started performing services without my permission and then billing me. (I am currently in a dispute with TruGreen over two applications they performed after I cancelled their service; but that’s more detail than you need.)

This year, I’ve been treating both mine and my dad’s lawn with Scott’s Turf Builder Weed and Feed, and a spreader made by the same company.

The lawn looks good—if I say so myself—and I don’t have to deal with TruGreen. A win all the way around. 

‘Old Henry’: a Wild West reimagining

I have at times struggled to get into alternative history, à la Harry Turtledove. Since history is one of my first loves, I often find it difficult to suspend my disbelief when an author decides to inject time travel into the American Civil War, or to continue that conflict well into the twentieth century. (Harry Turtledove has done both.)

But the 2021 neo-western film Old Henry involves a more subtle reimagining of a key element of Wild West lore. (I won’t tell you, lest I risk a spoiler that will ruin the movie for you. And—trust me on this—you don’t want that.)

Old Henry begins with an ambiguous shootout, and an older man living in Oklahoma in 1906 with his restless, ungrateful teenage son. Then things get really tense, really fast. Old Henry is a mystery as much as a typical western; and fans of both genres will be pleased.

By virtue of the particular storyline, Old Henry doesn’t have any female characters. Nor does it have a leading man studmuffin of the Chris Pratt variety. The star of the film, Tim Blake Nelson, is what Hollywood politely calls a “character actor”. This basically means that he’s a brilliant thespian who is not conventionally handsome enough to be a traditional leading man.

But Nelson is perfect for the lead role in this film. The other supporting actors—Scott Haze, Gavin Lewis, Trace Adkins, and Steven Dorff—perform admirably as well. 

Old Henry is a claustrophobic film that pulls you in. For me, Old Henry recalled Hitchcock films like Rear Window.

The final twist is complex, and not necessarily one that you will see coming. In historical terms, the twist is just large enough to be a mind-bender, but still within the realm of believability. (I.e., there are no time travelers.)

I enjoyed this movie, and I think you will, too. Highly recommended. 

View Old Henry on Amazon

The Cairo Deception 4: ‘Showdown in Cairo’

This book is now available on Amazon! Below are the first two chapters. In this opening scene, Betty Lehmann has a run-in with her old nemesis, FBI Special Agent Paul Gellar:

Chapter One

Betty Lehmann stood on a crowded passenger ship dock in Brooklyn, New York, on the western shoreline of New York Harbor. She looked up at the tall, wide prow of the RMS Scotlander. 

It was a balmy day in September of 1938. The city of New York was sweltering under a late-season heat wave, but there was a pleasant breeze here, so close to the Atlantic. 

Betty, moreover, could feel herself tingling with excitement, for the journey that was about to begin. Within the hour, Betty would board the Scotlander, which was bound for the Egyptian port of Alexandria.

This trip would be different from her recent one to Germany. Whereas the trip to Germany had been like official tourism in the name of the German-American Bund, this trip to Egypt would involve hands-on training. 

And yes, probably a real-life test or two.

This had been a year of tests. A full year had passed since Betty had pushed Barry Rosenberg from the precipice at Lover’s Ridge. She had survived that trial by fire, dodging the inquiries of both the Dutch Falls police, and then the FBI.

Perhaps those trials had, ironically, made her more prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

She had known that the purpose of her recent trip to Germany was twofold. On one hand, the trip gave her an opportunity to see the Fatherland. But it also gave officials who oversaw the Reich’s Operation Pastorius a chance to evaluate her. 

She had even been given the honor of meeting Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most powerful men in Germany. 

How many ordinary people, she wondered, got to meet Heydrich? It had been the opportunity of a lifetime!

And the men in Berlin must have been impressed with her—at least to a degree. Otherwise, they would not have approved her participation in an actual Gestapo operation. 

Of course, Rudolf Schenk would be primarily responsible for tracking down the perfidious traitors in Cairo. She would be only a trainee and an observer. But it was an opportunity and an honor, nevertheless. 

The only downside was that Frank would be accompanying her to Egypt. She recalled how he had behaved in Berlin. Frank had jealously hovered over her the entire time. Frank had not learned of her fling with Colonel Volker’s young adjutant, Karl Richter; but he had suspected.

She was now twenty years old, and she did not intend to answer to her older brother about her personal life. Frank acted not like a brother, anyway, but more like a jealous beau. 

This realization made her skin crawl, and she pushed it away. Hopefully Frank wouldn’t be too much of a wet blanket while they were in Egypt. She was anxious to learn everything she could from this Rudolf Schenk. If Frank became jealous of Schenk, too, he might ruin everything. 

***

But at least Frank wasn’t here with her now, this minute. He had just excused himself to go into the station building for the shipping line. Probably he needed to use the restroom. Betty hadn’t asked. She was simply glad to be free of his overbearing presence for a few minutes.  

Betty noticed a man looking at her from some distance away, amid the crowd waiting to board the RMS Scotlander. 

The man looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place him. Probably he reminded her of someone she knew back in Dutch Falls. 

This was New York City, she reminded herself. She didn’t know anyone here. No one at all. 

Perhaps the man merely found her attractive. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all, that a strange man had noticed her.

So as not to encourage him, she tilted her head upward, and then looked away.

***

Horst had been almost as excited to see Betty off as Betty was herself. Her father had been the architect of this trip, after all, and of her previous trip to Germany. Horst was the leader of the German-American Bund in Dutch Falls. From Horst Betty had acquired not only her drive and discipline, but also her love for Germany and the Führer. 

Not everyone in Dutch Falls had been anxious to see her go, however. Her younger sister, Heidi, would miss her. 

And then there was Patrick.

Patrick O’Dell had made one final, impassioned plea, practically begging her to stay in Pennsylvania. She had, at least, managed to allay his suspicions about her role in the death of Barry Rosenberg. But convincing him to forget about her was another thing. 

Patrick O’Dell had been a pleasant enough diversion by Pennsylvania standards. But while in Germany, she had seen and recognized the kind of man she wanted. She wanted a man like Ensign Karl Richter, the young Wehrmacht adjutant with whom she’d had an affair while in Berlin. 

If only Patrick O’Dell would just forget about her.

***

The man she had noticed a few minutes ago—the one who had seemed to notice her—was now walking directly toward her at a brisk pace.

Suddenly he did look familiar. Very familiar.

“Betty Lehmann,” he said. “Remember me?”

It took Betty only a few seconds to place the man, now that he was standing practically face-to-face with her. 

This was the FBI agent who had shown up in Dutch Falls the previous winter, leveling accusations at her father, and also at her. 

His name was—

“Special Agent Paul Gellar,” he said. “Just in case you’ve forgotten.”

Betty attempted to reply, but found herself tongue-tied.

Chapter Two

Horst had warned her that they might not be completely finished with the FBI agent. Gellar might show up again, and try to trip one of them up.

The way to handle him, her father had said, was with cool-headed deliberation. Be civil; do not provoke him. But say as little as possible. Don’t allow him to rattle you, or goad you into saying something that you would regret later. 

“Good afternoon, Agent Gellar,” Betty said, recovering herself now. “How nice of you to come and see me off. You must have a lot of time on your hands at the Bureau, if you have time for this.”

“Let’s just say that you’re a priority, Miss Lehmann.”

Betty felt a little chill run through her. She didn’t want to be a priority for the FBI.

But of course Gellar would say something like that. He wanted to disorient her, to make her incriminate herself.

With some difficulty, she forced herself to remember Horst’s instructions. 

“Am I? You flatter me, Agent Gellar. Still, it’s reassuring to know that the FBI makes time to see citizens off when they take ocean voyages. Too bad you didn’t show up earlier. You could have helped me with my luggage.” 

“Cut the crap, Miss Lehmann. You’re about as innocent as a fox leaving the henhouse with blood on its muzzle.”

Betty rolled her eyes at Gellar. “And you’re about as good at metaphor as well, a third-rate FBI agent. What is this about?”

It occurred to Betty that she was no longer following her father’s instructions to the letter. She wasn’t being entirely civil; nor was she saying as little as possible. She was actively sparring with Agent Gellar, in fact.

“I know you were lying,” Gellar said. “I know that you had some role in Barry Rosenberg’s death, in him falling off that cliff. I don’t know if you pushed him yourself, or if you lured him there, and someone else did the dirty work. Either way, though, I know you had a part in it.”

“You have a very vivid imagination, Agent Gellar.”

“How do you sleep at night, Miss Lehmann?”

“Usually in a negligee, Agent Gellar. But sometimes we German American women sleep in the nude. Put that in your report.”

She was pleased to see the color rise in his cheeks. She had just made an FBI agent blush. 

“You think you’re clever, don’t you?” he asked, regaining himself.

“Have a pleasant day, Agent Gellar. Unless you have grounds to arrest me, I think we’re done with this conversation.”

“For now, maybe,” he said. “But we’re not done for good. And we won’t be, until you’re behind bars.” Gellar tipped his hat. “Have a pleasant voyage, Miss Lehmann. Anchors away!”

With that Gellar turned on his heels, started whistling to himself, and walked away. 

The man still had nothing on her. Otherwise, she reminded herself, he would have arrested her. Especially when she was preparing to embark on a trip abroad. This entire encounter had been nothing but yet another attempt to rattle her.

But he hadn’t succeeded.

***

Frank showed up at almost the exact same moment that Gellar receded into the crowd.

“Who was that?” Frank asked.

“That was Agent Gellar. The FBI agent.”

Frank had had no real interaction with Special Agent Paul Gellar. But he had heard about him. Horst, moreover, had warned Frank not to allow himself to be provoked.  

“What was he doing here?” 

“Just fishing for information, Frank.”

“About Papa?”

Neither Horst nor Betty had ever told Frank the truth about what had happened to Barry Rosenberg. He had no need to know about it. Nor did either of them completely trust his discretion.

“About Papa,” Betty answered. “About the Bund. About everything. You know how they are. They cast a wide net, and look for anything they can use. Anyway, come on: It’s almost time for us to board.”

View it on Amazon

Childhood memories, and writing about World War II

My grandfather in the Atlantic Ocean, 1943

World War II has been on my mind and in my fiction a lot of late. 

I’m presently finishing up the last book in The Cairo Deception, my WWII-era suspense/drama series. The most recent installment in The Rockland Horror, my historical horror series, takes place in 1945. The plot of The Rockland Horror 4 is intimately bound to the events of World War II.

To be clear about the title of this post: no, I do not have firsthand childhood memories of World War II. I was born in 1968, twenty-three years after the war ended. By the time I became aware of names like Pearl Harbor, Hitler, and Hirohito, the war was at least thirty years in the past.

My grandfather, however (pictured above) was a WWII combat veteran. He served in the Atlantic in the US Navy. His experiences were roughly similar to those depicted in the 2020 Tom Hanks movie, Greyhound.

From a very young age, I was captivated by history. And what better way to learn about history, than by listening to the stories of a relative who actually took part in it?

My grandfather regaled me with his accounts of Egypt, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Syria. He also told me stories about fighting the German U-boats and Messerschmidts. 

My grandfather was, in many ways, my first “action hero”. His experiences, though, were very common among men of that generation, who have been called (for good reason) the Greatest Generation.

I don’t remember a thing about World War II. But some of my fondest childhood memories involve listening, with rapt attention, while my grandfather told me about it. He has been gone for decades now, but I still miss him, and I miss his stories. He gave me an enduring interest in World War II, and it isn’t surprising that the war should show up in some of my stories. 

Demonic samurai in Kansas!

Below is a series of scenes from THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4, an upcoming installment in THE ROCKLAND HORROR series.

In the following scenes, undead samurai warriors have invaded the town of Cumminsville, Kansas!

They’ve come across the Pacific Ocean and half a continent. They’re on their way to Rockland, Indiana, of course!

***

From THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4:

As the dusk fell, a man named Roy Hollis pushed back his wife’s frilly curtains from the living room window of his one-story farmhouse. Roy’s farm lay four miles outside the town limits of Cumminsville. The middle of nowhere, really. 

Roy gazed out across the rows of his cornfield.

He had a bad feeling tonight. 

Something foul was afoot.

The sun had begun to set about an hour ago, but there was still a trace of sunlight above the western horizon. It burned the top of the cornstalks gold, orange, and red. 

Roy strained his eyes examining the cornfield. He was sure he had seen a trace of movement amid the cornstalks. 

There was no wind tonight. It might have been a stoat or a bobcat. The little farm was surrounded by woods, and animals of every kind.  

Roy hoped that it was something as harmless as a stoat or a bobcat.

“Whatsamatter, Pa?” Randy asked. Randy was Roy’s fourteen-year-old son. 

Roy turned around, and was a little startled to see Randy standing just behind him.

“You alright, Pa?” 

“I’m fine, son. It’s just—don’t sneak up on me like that, okay?”

“Sure. But what’s wrong outside? Why are you looking out the window?”

“I just thought I saw something moving out in the cornfield,” Roy said. 

“You want me to fetch the .22 and go have a look?” Randy responded eagerly. 

Randy was disappointed that the war had ended before he was old enough to serve. He was always looking for some excuse to fetch the family’s .22 rifle and go on a mock patrol.

“No,” Roy said. “Don’t you go out there.”

“Why?”

“Just don’t go. Now listen to me, son.”

“Yessir,” Randy said, deflated.

Randy’s other son, twelve-year-old Micah, sat at the kitchen table, poring over a copy of Life magazine. 

Life magazine was filled with news about the war. Roy did not need to read Life. He already knew all about the war. He had been there, done that. Roy was a recent veteran, after all. 

Although he had been married and old enough to avoid the draft, Roy had nevertheless enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He had honestly believed that Hitler and Hirohito had designs on taking over the United States. They would plant their Rising Sun and swastika flags not just in godless New York and Washington DC, but also in little salt-of-the-earth towns like Cumminsville, Kansas.

That prospect might seem far-fetched now. It had seemed all too realistic in December 1941, when Germany and Japan were winning all the battles, and taking territory left and right. 

Roy had joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific. He had had a few close calls near the end of the war, when the Japanese started going after American ships with those kamikaze suicide attacks. 

His war, though, had been nothing like that of the marines who had been tasked with the duty of going ashore, and removing the enemy from their entrenched island positions. Roy was very grateful that he had chosen the Navy, and not the Marine Corps.

Since returning to Cumminsville, Roy had occasionally found himself on edge. Lingering anxiety from the war, he supposed. There were articles about that in the newspapers, too. Men who had returned from the war, but who could not remove the war from inside their own heads. 

“Got a bad feeling tonight,” Roy said to no one in particular. 

His wife, however, answered him from the kitchen. 

“You need to relax, Roy,” Mabel Hollis said. “No one’s going to be sneaking up on the farmhouse. There are no Japanese soldiers in Cumminsville.”

Mabel was cleaning up the remains of their dinner, recently concluded.

“I know that, Mabe,” he said, closing the curtain. “I know there are no Japanese soldiers in Kansas. Of course I know that.”

Tonight, however, he wasn’t completely certain that was true. Tonight he had a bad case of the heebie-jeebies, and he couldn’t say why.

***

Some time later, the Hollis family was listening to a broadcast of The Jack Benny Program on the big Magnadyne radio in the living room of the farmhouse. Mabel, Randy, and Micah all laughed uproariously throughout the show, but Jack Benny’s jokes simply didn’t resonate with Roy like they had before the war. 

By the time the thirty-minute show ended, Roy had barely cracked a smile. 

Moreover, he had a persistent feeling that something was in his barn that didn’t belong there. The same thing that had been in his cornfield an hour ago.

He couldn’t have described exactly how he knew this. It came to him in a vision. Not a vivid, picture-perfect vision like the evangelical preachers sometimes claimed to have. This was a vague sensation, partly seen and partly only felt.

In any case, though, Roy sensed that it would not let him go until he checked, and knew for certain. 

He began to stand up from his rocking chair. 

Mabel looked over at him uneasily. She had been sitting on the sofa, working on one of her knitting projects while she listened to the radio. 

Randy and Micah usually occupied the floor while the family consumed radio programs. The boys sat Indian-style throughout the broadcasts, leaning forward with rapt attention. They were still there, even though Jack Benny had just concluded. 

The evening news broadcast was beginning. Randy was interested in news about the emerging postwar order—or rather, disorder. Randy was still planning to enlist when he turned eighteen. He said that by then, there would be another war, this one with the Ruskies. 

Now Randy and Micah were looking up at their father, though. Roy stood in the middle of the living room.

“I think I’ll go have a look-see in the barn,” he said.

“Why?” Mabel asked. “Did you hear something?”

“No,” Roy answered. This was the truth. Also, Mabel was no fool. There was no way she would believe that he had heard something in the barn while Jack Benny was playing on the radio. No one’s hearing was that sharp.

“Want me to—?” Randy began.

“No,” Roy said. “Stay here with your mother and brother.”

***

Roy did not take the .22 rifle to the barn with him. He took a 12-gauge shotgun that he kept in the home’s mud room, immediately off the kitchen. 

Before he set off, he lit a kerosene lantern. That would not only light the way, it would also keep the mosquitos at bay. 

Roy desperately hoped that all of this would turn out to be nothing, that a few hungry mosquitos would be the worst perils he would encounter on his way to the barn and back. 

He exited the farmhouse through the door off the mudroom. He began his walk out to the barn, the lantern in one hand, the 12-gauge in the other.

The short walk, across the main yard and skirting the edge of the main cornfield, was uneventful. No mosquitos, even.

Then he came to the big, unpainted wooden barn. The barn had been there since the late 1800s, when Roy’s grandfather, father, and uncles had built it.

He pushed the sliding barn door open, making it creak on its runners. He set the lantern down in the grass while he did this, to free one hand.

The barn door open, Roy picked up the lantern again and looked inside. He was reminded again that he needed to electrify the barn, now that he was home for good. That had been on his to-do list even before the war. There was adequate light, though, between the lantern, and what moonlight came in through the barn’s two clear glass windows.

The family had one horse, a gelding named Priam. Priam was edged back against the rear of his stall. The horse’s eyes were blank, almost as if the animal were drugged.

Priam was…scared? Was that possible? 

Roy set the kerosene lantern on his nearby workbench. (He kept the 12-gauge in his right hand.) Then he spoke soothingly to the horse.

“Whatsamatter, Priam?” 

The horse did not answer him. He just continued to stare at Roy with those blank, dark eyes of his. 

What was there for Priam to be afraid of? There were no wolves in this part of Kansas; there hadn’t been for nearly a hundred years. 

And on a related matter: why, exactly, had he deemed it necessary to come out here? 

It was just that very intense feeling he had gotten, while listening to Jack Benny. And that half-formed vision of an intruder

Roy heard something shift behind him. He turned around and saw the intruder. And yet, that description did not really do justice to what he saw. 

The creature standing in the open doorway of the barn looked vaguely like a Japanese soldier from the late conflict. And yet, it wasn’t a Japanese soldier, either. It was some hideous malformation that was based on a Japanese soldier, but it had elements of something else.

Since returning from the war, Roy had taken an odd interest in Japanese history and culture. This interest bewildered even him. But he felt a compulsive need to learn more about his former enemy.

There were several books on Japanese history in the Cumminsville public library. These books informed Roy that Japan had long been a martial society. He had read about the samurai warriors, who had hacked each other to pieces with curved, razor-sharp swords.

The samurai had dressed for combat in armor that was designed to intimidate the enemy, as well as protect the wearer. Roy had seen illustrations of the old samurai warriors, clad in full battle gear.

The creature standing in the open doorway of the barn looked something like one of those medieval samurai warriors. Or a misshapen version of that.

The thing had glowing red eyes.

“Wha—?” Roy said, trembling. 

The intruder opened its mouth, revealing rows of long, canine teeth. No—more like crocodile teeth.

In the space of just two seconds, a complicated series of thoughts went through Roy’s mind. There was no way he could even begin to understand what this thing was, or exactly what it wanted.

What was clear enough was that it was hostile. He had to kill it now, or it would kill him.

Roy began to raise the shotgun. 

But the intruder was too fast.

Roy Hollis’s shotgun did go off in the final second of his life, as the intruder raced forward at him, but the muzzle of the gun was knocked astray. The shotgun boomed, and buckshot scattered harmlessly into the far wall of the barn.

Roy’s blood splattered on the wall of the barn, too. 

Priam, the gelding, began bucking and whinnying in his stall. 

The horse drew the attention of the supernatural creature. 

The intruder moved with impossible speed, covering the floorspace of the barn in a mere second.

A few seconds after that, Priam was silent, too.

***

“Did you hear that?” Randy said, addressing his mother and younger brother. “Out there in the barn, I mean.”

Micah and Mabel nodded. They had all heard the sound of the shotgun going off. They had also heard Priam, whinnying in what sounded like distress, before his whinnying was abruptly cut silent. This far out in the country, sounds carried long distances with clarity. And the barn was a short walk from the house. 

“I heard it,” Mabel said. Then she added, hopefully, “Your pa might have killed a weasel or a skunk out there.”

Randy didn’t immediately contradict his mother, but he didn’t share her interpretation, either. That wouldn’t explain why Priam had whinnied, and then gone instantly silent.

“I’m going out there to see,” Randy said.

Mabel began to object. Randy, in a rare act of outright adolescent defiance, cut her off.

“I’m going out there,” he said. “Pa may be in trouble. He may need my help.”

“All right,” she acquiesced. “But give him a few more minutes, okay? Then you can go out there and see.”

“A few more minutes,” he agreed. “Then I need to go.”

***

Randy stood on the front porch of the farmhouse, holding the twenty-two.

His mother had still not liked the idea of him going outside to investigate. But when another ten minutes had passed with no sign of Roy, Mabel had relented.

Looking out into the night, Randy called out for his father.

“Pa! Are you there?”

No answer. 

Then a dark blur, roughly the size of a man, moved across his field of vision, in front of the barn.

Randy blinked. The shape had moved so fast that he could not fully catch sight of it, especially with the darkness factored in.

Then another blur. And another. Both of similar size and shape.

Then more blurs, rushing to and fro.

There were three shapes in total. They were moving across the yard in a bizarre, zigzagging pattern.

Randy knew, somehow, that these things were responsible for whatever had happened to his father.

(And something had to have happened; because his father had not returned to the house, or answered Randy’s calls.)

But what the heck were they? He had anticipated nothing like this. 

“Where’s my pa?” Randy shouted, his voice trembling.

One of the blurs paused, perhaps midway between the barn and the front porch of the house. 

It looked at Randy. And now Randy could see it, partially illuminated by the moonlight. But he could not believe it.

Randy took in the creature’s glowing red eyes. Its mouth opened, exposing razor-sharp teeth.

His hands shaking, Randy aimed the twenty-two and fired. 

The thing darted out of the way,  before Randy had even pulled the trigger.

Randy lowered the gun. Beneath his terror, and his dread regarding the fate of his father, was bewilderment. How had it moved so quickly? The thing traveled at a blinding speed, like a large, monstrous hummingbird. 

That was the last thought that would ever go through fourteen-year-old Randy Hollis’s mind. 

One of the thing’s companions took Randy from his right side. Randy never even saw it coming; and he never learned the full truth of what had happened to his father, either. 

That’s the end of the excerpt! 

This is a secondary plot line—which takes place far from Rockland, Indiana. But it will give you a taste of that the book will be like.

THE ROCKLAND HORROR is where history meets horror!

THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4 will be released in early April!

Book 4 of ‘THE CAIRO DECEPTION’ now available

The fourth book in THE CAIRO DECEPTION series is now available on Amazon:

“Betty Lehmann travels to Cairo, and finally achieves her goal of participating in a mission for the Third Reich. But she may not survive the experience. 

And even in Egypt, her past catches up with her.

Rudolf Schenk pursues the Vogels in Cairo. But there are new enemies standing in his way.

Jack McCallum is in Egypt seeking buried treasure and an easy fortune. Instead he finds a woman he cannot resist, who draws him into a Nazi plot.”

If you enjoyed the first three books, I think you’ll like this one, too.

(There is one more book in the 5-book series, and it’s in production now.)

View ‘Showdown in Cairo: Book Four of ‘The Cairo Deception’ on Amazon

Winter’s last hurrah

This is the view from my back deck today.

Yesterday afternoon it was shirtsleeve weather here in Cincinnati. I was starting to make concrete plans for getting my spring yard work done.

Then just after dark, a front came in, bringing much colder temperatures and some light snow.

Mid-March is usually the time when we say goodbye to winter in Southern Ohio. By St. Patrick’s Day, winter is pretty much a done deal in this part of the world.

Although this has not been a bad winter by Ohio standards, I’m ready for it to end. Hopefully this was winter’s last hurrah for another year.

Start THE CAIRO DECEPTION series FREE, March 5th ~ 9th, 2022

How about a story set in the period immediately before World War 2, featuring Nazi undercover agents, in both Germany and America?

THE FIFTH COLUMN, Book One in THE CAIRO DECEPTION, will be FREE on Amazon Kindle from March 5 through March 9!

Description:

In 1938, 19-year-old Betty Lehmann is the town beauty of Dutch Falls, Pennsylvania. She’s also a member of the German-American Bund, and an undercover agent-in-training for Nazi Germany.

Get it FREE on Kindle here (March 5 through March 9)